I'm working on making it a home. I know you all will help.
Censorship is one thing, but losing one's words is another one entirely. Sarah and I backed up my entire blog (minus the comments, though... haven't figure out how to do that yet) so if anything happened before I could move it all over here, it was saved. I now have to do the same for my 20 Years of Birth Stories before I am flagged there, too. I will move it over here asap.
I received an email this morning from a woman who wrote me regarding the sad state of obstetric care and how she felt nothing would change until the perpetrators made the changes from the inside. She, a counselor in a sexual abuse healing center, writes in part:
As an incest and rape survivor, I have had my share of survivors over the years (you know how it goes, like seeks out like... even subconsciously). Loooooooonnnnnngggggg ago, before Penny Simkin even began researching her sexual abuse/birth book (and I know this because she and I had a discussion about the formulation of this thinking in about 1988 or so), I realized that epidurals were a serious cause of birth trauma for women. That, even as women were numbed physically, they carried with them body memories of penetration, pain and, in many ways, assault. They might not have physically felt those things, but on another level, their psyches were going to have to process all that shit that happened during the birth.
Bring on the postpartum depression for vulnerable women... women who had already been abused sexually, women who had a low tolerance for physical or psychic pain and even many psychologically healthy women whose bodies didn't realize what birth meant in this culture... the amount of assault, invasion and pain.
Now, I am also of the belief that women shouldn't suffer in birth and an epidural can be the most humane and conscious - and even HEALTHY - choice for some women. I know that some abused women need to have an epidural (or even cesarean) to be their most empowered. But that is a conscious decision, a consensual one, and women who make those choices seem to do really well postpartum.
I still believe women should be treated humanely when they have an epidural... the care provider asking permission to touch (which, by the way, I always do with my clients), explaining things as they are happening and thanking them for their help once the procedure/action is completed.
When I have women who have been sexually abused, I work with them on a birth plan that says these very things. It isn't that they are going to avoid vaginal exams altogether (in the hospital and possibly with me); that ain't happenin'. But they can be treated with respect and kindness... and the provider needs to take it SLOW with these women so they can process in their own time (unless a true emergency is occuring).
Of course, these are women who are aware of their sexual abuse histories. It is the women with repressed memories that suffer the most in birth, unaware of their body memories reacting to the vaginal exams, the IVs, the internal monitors, etc. THESE are the women I worry about the most.
For years and years, the media was filled with stories of sexual abuse. They, for the most part, are gone. Our culture has had its fill of sad stories and of women who flock to support groups to get help. Numb. I believe the incidence of abuse hasn't changed one iota, yet so, so many women are left alone to heal. Blessedly, there are a billion and a half books, but women stumbling through pain sometimes aren't even aware enough to know to read or talk to anyone.
I know that so many women with PPD have been sexually abused... it's flabbergasting that the information isn't widely known. How could someone, some researcher NOT see the correlation?
I know the change has to come from the inside out. For years we felt doulas would be the agents of change, but doulas have been transformed into The Enemy on most L&D wards. Midwives are rarely listened to (I can't even get Dr. Wonderful to quit doing perineal massage! Argh!) and medical school is so by rote, so regimented and unchanging, it's hard to imagine anything changing ever.
Yet, as a midwife, I strive to help women have a healthy experience, even if that means interventions or cesareans. My clients, for the most part, are VERY satisfied with their experiences and I can't help but think that it is because I work so hard towards building trust as well as telling the truth and details as things unfold, even if it is in the 2 minutes before EMS gets there.
I'm sure I have a lot to work on still, but I know that my own history has come into play (in a HUGE way) with my work as a midwife. And I'm glad. I think it makes me a better one.